Most house proud owners want their homes to look their best for visitors. For many the first impression starts outside with carefully manicured verges and imposing gates. For some homeowners, it’s a conspicuous show of wealth and prosperity, meant to impress neighbours and anyone who happens to pass by. For some, it’s a show of ownership and placing obstacles or barriers along the edge of the road in front of the house clearly says “stay off my verge”. What many of these show offs don’t realise is that their actions are not only rather ridiculous, they are irresponsible and in some cases even illegal.
Let’s be very clear – the verge between your boundary wall or fence and the edge of the road is not your property. It belongs to the City of Harare. Even the trees growing on the verge do not belong to you, even if you planted them. If you want to cut them down you need to get written permission from your local council.
Placing stones or posts on the verge to claim ‘your’ verge is a dangerous practice. With the dreadful state of our roads, and the equally bad standards of driving, it is often necessary to veer off the road onto the verge to avoid potholes, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. If you’re driving at a fairly conservative 60 km per hour and you hit a large rock or a barrier, you could badly damage your vehicle or have a more serious accident trying to manoeuvre around the obstacles. Barriers also make it more difficult for cyclists to get off the road in the face of on-coming traffic. Should your barriers cause an accident, you could not only be fined by the Council, you could be liable for a law suit.
It’s irresponsible and selfish to keep the lawn on the verge watered and green all year round. Water is a precious and finite commodity and it seems it will become even scarcer in the next few years. Some suburbs have not received municipal water for years or even decades and many in the high density areas have no access to water for everyday needs. Wasting water to keep your verge green is criminal. Even if you are lucky enough to have a prolific borehole, bear in mind that underground water is a shared resource – it belongs to the entire community and not just to you. Wasteful use of water has lead to many boreholes across the city drying up seasonally or sometimes permanently. Would you rather have a green lawn outside your wall or water for cooking and washing?
If you want to keep your verges looking good all year round there are many aloes, succulents and water-wise ground covers available which need very little maintenance. Aloes have the added benefit of blooming in mid winter when most other plants are not looking their best. If in doubt ask your local nursery for advice.
If you’re really house-proud (and a responsible citizen) keep your verge litter free, keep the grass cut and keep your drains and ditches open. Some verges are kept totally bare and barren and carefully swept daily. This is not a wise practice as the soil turns into dust in the dry season and turns to mud in the rains. It also encourages soil erosion and silts up the drains. Short grass or ground covers are the best. If you really want to make a good impression consider planting some indigenous fruit trees on the verge. In years to come passersby will thank you.